My last post was an introductory handout on the mysteries of God: Believing friend, you’ve been entrusted with the “mysteries of God” – Do you know these mysteries?
This is a class I am teaching at my local church, and each week I’ll share my teaching notes with you. These are literally my notes, so it won’t read like a typical blog post. Here is week one, after I went over the introductory handout.
Daniel – We could spend months on a Daniel Bible study.
It is an important book – Jesus quotes Daniel, and in this 6 week mystery study we’ll see that Daniel is often in the background of NT teachings. But tonight we want to have a more narrow focus on the idea of mystery in Daniel. We can’t take rabbit trails.
Daniel and Ezekiel are the two exilic books – the prophetic books written while the people were in exile. A way to remember this is: “Eat Dirt.”
They were no longer in the Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey, and they had to eat dirt. E=Ezekiel, D=Daniel.
The book of Daniel is a bridge, different from the other prophetic books, because it connects the two periods of Israel’s history – the period of the failure and exile, and the period of the restoration.
We need to delve into mystery. The English word mystery is a translation of an Aramaic noun raz that appears 9 times in Daniel chapters 2 and 4. About half of Daniel was written in Aramaic (2:46-7:28) and about half in Hebrew. (Aramaic was the language of diplomacy and the Medo-Persian Empire.) Each time the word mystery is used in Daniel, the Greek translation of Daniel rendered it mysterion – mystery in Greek.
Am I just trying to bore you here? No. There is a point!
The LXX or Septuagint would have been the Bible that most Jews at the time of Jesus utilized. Their OT had been translated into Greek, including Daniel. Remember the world at that time had been Hellenized – very influenced by the Greeks. The Greek word mysterion in Daniel 2 and 4, is the same Greek word used throughout the NT for these mystery truths we’ll look at in the coming weeks.
Daniel 2 is a long chapter, and we are going to walk through it.
(Open your Bibles to Daniel 2.)
I’ll summarize verses 1-16:
King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that he wanted his “wise men” (Babylonian magicians and astrologers) to interpret for him. But he would not tell them the dream, expecting them to both know his dream and interpret it. If they could not both tell him the dream and interpret it, he would have them all killed.
The wise men replied that this was not fair, and he was expecting the impossible. This made the king furious and he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. When they reached Daniel and his friends, it says that Daniel spoke with “wisdom and tact” to the king’s agent and also told the king that he could interpret his dream but only need a little time.
Now let’s read verses 17-19. We will see the word mystery twice.
With modern English translations, many translate it mystery but several translate it secret.
- Thus far, mystery is mentioned in regards to this dream and its interpretation.
It says that after the mystery was revealed to Daniel, he then blessed God with this psalm or poem of praise. This psalm will provide insight into the relationship between mystery and wisdom. So let’s read verses 20-23.
What are the reasons for blessing God as Daniel begins in verses 20-21?
- God’s wisdom and power, God controls history, God gives wisdom and knowledge to the wise/discerning
Regarding wisdom in this Psalm… Where does wisdom originate? (God)
Who does God give wisdom to? (the wise)
I got to thinking about this…if you are already wise, are you the one who needs wisdom? Maybe God should give wisdom to the not-so-wise – I’ll avoid derogatory terms for such people. The Bible does use the word fool and scoffer for un-wise people. What are your thoughts? Why is God giving wisdom to the wise?
- A truly wise person realizes their limitations, and that they don’t know everything. A truly wise person is always in learning mode. But fools unfortunately can think they know everything, and can even be quite confident. I think a fool would not ask for wisdom or be receptive to receiving it.
(Tuck this in your head for next week when we look at parables in Matthew 13.)
Note that verse 22 says that God reveals things, and in verse 23 Daniel praises God for making known to him the dream and its interpretation.
So at a basic level, mystery concerns God revealing or making known his wisdom. And I hope you note the echoes of these ideas in Romans 16, Ephesians 3, and Colossians 1 that we looked at a few minutes ago.
Daniel 2 continues with Daniel interpreting the dream for Nebuchadnezzar. In verses 26-30, we will again see the word mystery used several times. Let’s read these verses.
What points are repeated that were also mentioned in Daniel’s psalm?
(God reveals mysteries.)
Note how verse 29 refers to things to come, and what is going to happen. Some things were going to happen soon, but others were farther off in the future.
Let’s read where Daniel begins to tell the king the content of his dream. Verses 31-34.
We don’t have time to delve into this statue dream of Nebuchadnezzar, but Daniel goes on to interpret it. This statue made of gold, silver, bronze, iron and clay represented the fall and rise of several different kingdoms or nations. The statue is a symbol of the history between the exile and the coming Messiah.
*Show chart.* I showed them this interesting old Clarence Larkin chart. See HERE to purchase. (I am NOT an affiliate. Just sharing for your info.)
And then there was this rock that struck the feet of the statue and destroyed it and the rock became a huge mountain that filled the whole earth. And later in the chapter when Daniel is explaining this more, he says in verse 44…Let’s read verses 44-45.
This rock represents a kingdom that God sets up that will never be destroyed and will endure forever. And that rock and kingdom would later be realized to be the Lord Jesus Christ. Think…“Hidden but now revealed”
Next week we are going to look at the mysteries of the kingdom found in Matthew 13 and look at some parables told by Jesus. Remember that a mystery… was there in the OT but details were hidden or veiled, and when this kingdom of God finally arrived through Christ it had unexpected characteristics – but that is for next week. But keep this about Daniel in your mind for next week.
A bit more about Daniel. We won’t look at chapter 4 but Nebuchadnezzar has another dream that Daniel interprets, and the word mystery is again used in a similar way as chapter 2.
In the last few minutes, I want to offer a bird’s eye view or mini overview of Daniel…The first half of the book of Daniel is a bit easier to understand, but the second half gets more complex and challenging, and is about eschatological events. Do we know that word?
Eschatology is the theological study of “last or final things” (or the end times) that occur when it gets closer to the second coming of Christ and the new heaven and earth when God completes his plan for this world – when the kingdom of God comes in its fullness.
I want us to look at 3 verses from later in Daniel just to see this eschatological or “far future” or “later day” emphasis: Daniel 10:14; Daniel 11:35; Daniel 12:4.
When you think of “end times” whether now or in the past if you grew up Christian, is there a certain mood or feeling you’d associate with these things?
(Foreboding, fear, anxiety?) If your eschatological ideas make you fearful, you’re doing it wrong, because eschatology should ultimately bring us comfort and hope.
Jesus is coming again and everything is going to be okay. I saw a painting recently and it wasn’t Christian yet it sent a profound Christian message. The painting said something like this on it: “In the end, it will be okay. If it is not okay, it is not the end.” And this is the big overall message of the book Daniel, and of the mysteries of God that we will look at in this class.
Daniel, in his psalm of praise that we looked at in chapter 2, said “God changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others.” The message of Daniel is that there is a God who governs and guides history. History is going somewhere and is moving towards God’s appointed end.
If you flip through Daniel, you will see it repeated, particularly in the first half of the book, that: the Most High God has an eternal kingdom that will endure forever.
The rock in the dream broke the statue and filled the earth. This kingdom cannot be broken, unlike other kingdoms of this world. The repeated “good news” of Daniel is that God is sovereign and governs the world.
We can throw around this word sovereign and talk about the sovereignty of God, but what does that mean? How might you define God’s sovereignty?
- God is in control. God is all-powerful, and it is not so much that he controls us so that we don’t have free-will as creatures, but God can utilize problematic people and incorporate troubling circumstances into his plan and purposes so that things keep moving towards God’s appointed end.
The first half of the book of Daniel prepares you for the second half. Being anchored in the truths of the first half:
– knowing that there is a God who we can trust, who rescues and saves, and who has a plan for this world –
helps us trust God through the strange and perplexing things found in the second half of Daniel (even though we aren’t delving into all that for this class).
It is worth staying faithful to God and enduring in our faith, even when things seem out of control or hard to understand, because God is sovereign.